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K-State Today

December 1, 2011

Project Cotton: Students ready for the runway

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Students in Kansas State University's apparel and textile design program are getting hands-on experience and a glimpse of what it takes to be a real-world designer.

A grant from Cotton Incorporated allowed Joycelyn Burdett, an assistant professor in the university's department of apparel, textiles and interior design, to offer a special topics class that educates students about cotton, including all the stages of production it goes through to get from the field to the fabric her students use for their fashion design.

The class will culminate with a live runway fashion show and competition featuring the students' designs. The show, which is free and open to the public, starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Grand Ballroom at the K-State Student Union. The show is free and open to the public.

When the Kansas Cotton Association heard about the grant, it agreed to also sponsor a denim runway design challenge to make the special topics class an even bigger opportunity for K-State students.

Later, Lee Jeans also got on board with the project, and is sponsoring another section of the fashion show. The theme is Lee Jeans 125. The jeans maker will celebrate 125 years in business in 2013, and the idea of the challenge is that Lee will feature some of the winning student designs in an upcoming line commemorating the milestone.

The students in the special topics class, along with Burdett's pattern making class, have taken four trips throughout the year to cotton mills and sewing facilities around the country, including an all-expense paid trip to Cotton Incorporated's headquarters in Cary, N.C.

The class' most recent trip was to the American Cotton Grower's Mill in Littlefield, Texas, where more than 40 kinds of denim are manufactured. The mill is a member of the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, or PCCA, which has also played a big part in making the special topics class and the fashion show possible.

"PCCA has been great throughout this entire process," said Burdett. "They have been very hands-on with us."

In a normal design class, students make two garments throughout the semester, but with the fashion show, as added incentive, the students have had to increase their output. Burdett has seen an increase in enthusiasm for the course as well.

"They have been so much more motivated," she said. "Their willingness to take advantage of this opportunity and their enthusiasm has been astronomical."

Students whose designs win the fashion show will receive up to $800 in cash prizes.

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